Learning About the Human Genome

Posted on March 19, 2007  Comments (1)

You Don’t Miss Those 8,000 Genes, Do You? by Carl Zimmer:

Science moves forward by flow. One experiment leads to another. Observations accrue. What seem like side trips or even dead ends may bring a fuzzy picture further into focus. Yet science often seems as if it moves forward one bombshell at a time, marked by scientific papers and press conferences.

When Craig Venter and his colleagues published their rough draft of the human genome in 2001 they identified 26,588 human genes. They then broke those genes down by their functions. Some were involved in building DNA, some in relaying signals, and so on. Remarkably, though, they classified 12809 genes–almost half–as “molecular function unknown.” Last week I wanted to know if those numbers still hold.

They weren’t so easy to find. In 2003 some reports came out to the effect that the genome had shrunk down to 21,000 genes. But I couldn’t turn up much news in the past four years.

The pie shows that we’re now down to just 18,308 genes. That’s over 8,000 genes fewer than six years ago. Many sequences that once looked like full-fledged genes, capable of generating a protein, now don’t make the grade. Some genes turned out to be pseudogenes–vestiges of genes that once worked but have been since wrecked by mutations. In other cases, DNA segments that appeared to be parts of separate genes have turned out to be part of the same gene.

Today scientists still don’t know the function of 5898 genes in the human genome. In other words, over the past six years about 7,000 genes either have been figured out or have vanished into the land of nevermind.

Great post. Read it.

One Response to “Learning About the Human Genome”

  1. CuriousCat: Opossum Genome Shows ‘Junk’ DNA is Not Junk
    May 10th, 2007 @ 9:48 pm

    […] The more recent articles I read on DNA discoveries the more interesting it seems to get. […]

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